Allen Ginsberg Fearless Poet

by Peter Herman
April 2, 2021, 2020

When faced with certain opprobrium, not many have the courage to proclaim who they truly are. Allen Ginsberg, the celebrated American poet, was just the person to not give a damn. He certainly knew that it would not gain him many friends when he publicly revealed that he was a member of NAMBLA. This is what he said:

Attacks on NAMBLA stink of politics, witchhunting for profit, humorlessness, vanity, anger and ignorance ... I'm a member of NAMBLA because I love boys too everybody does, who has a little humanity

Allen Ginsberg died on April 5, 1997. The anniversary of his death is an opportunity to remind the world of his courage and adherence to humanistic principles. This does not require us to duplicate what is already on Wikipedia .

Though Wikipedia does not shy away from mentioning Ginsberg's association with NAMBLA, in a misguided attempt to show balance it includes a comment by Andrea Dworkin who dismisses his decency and humanitarianism by calling him a pedophile a term that is now replacing Hitler and Nazism as the preferred way of destroying an individual's worth. Click here to read Wikipedia's accont.

Ginsberg did not just make a statement defending NAMBLA. He also devoted a day presenting poetry and song at the New York City NAMBLA 1989 conference. We provide below a short video clip of the presentation.

The brief clip is of the end of his presentation after his harmonium accompanied singing and applause. It was chosen to also show his playful side at the end of the clip. We hope to eventually be able to make the entire presentation available.


Attempt to Cancel (Erase) Ginsberg

Cancel culture is alive and well in our country, and there is no shortage of pusillanimous individuals who will bend to it. Mural painter Timothy Smith apparently is one of those who succumbed to the pressure to erase Allen Ginsberg from his Hermosa Beach mural. Should he still consider himself a creative artist if his art is at the whim of those who will dictate to him?

The old Soviet Union, with policies at the time seen as evil by schoolchildren and adults alike, had brought cancel culture to unprecedented heights. The Soviets did not have digital methods of erasing disfavored Party members from official photos. But they did not need Photoshop because their photographic experts were superlative in their analog techniques. Timothy Smith's chicken-hearted low-tech action only needed a paint roller.

It is doubtful that Ginsberg would have cared personally, but this cowardly action certainly went against his strong feelings on free speech.

The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) statement condemning this latest exhibition of cancel culture is worth reading.

Before After

Personal reminiscences:

After Etan Patz disappeared in 1979, and by early 1983, the FBI and the New York City police cooked up a scheme to pin the blame on NAMBLA. The papers were full of front-page headlines asking if NAMBLA had kidnapped the boy. Out of the blue, I got a phone call from Allen Ginsberg wanting to discuss the accusations. I had never met or spoken to Allen prior to that. During our conversation, he offered to let us use a statement by him in a book I was compiling about the case, A Witchhunt Foiled: The FBI vs. NAMBLA. Here is his statement about the attacks in Time that I included in the book:

"This struck me on first reading as a precise characterization of Time's own assault on the American mind and body politic. The obsessive self-righteousness of this slick news magazine's judgment glares most sinister in the light of Time's own tendency to manipulate readers' minds through disturbed reporting such as its story on NAMBLA not to speak of Time's peddling of local drugs (cigarettes and alcohol) for advertising revenue. Attacks on NAMBLA stink of politics, witchhunting for profit, humorlessness, vanity, anger and ignorance, obvious pack journalism. New York Times and Time magazine on the subject have been obnoxiously hypocritical. I'm a member of NAMBLA because I love boys too everybody does who has a little humanity."

Allen never made pretenses and was always true to his pacifist beliefs. When we (NAMBLA) had asked the New York Gay Community Center for space for Allen's performance at an event during our national conference, the Center refused to permit it. So we got a venue off Broadway, in a loft. After Allen's performance, I told him that I thought we should organize a sit-in at the community center to protest its discriminatory denial, but his response was: "That would be bad karma." Allen was being true to his Buddhist beliefs.

David Thorstad

[David Thorstad is a longtime gay activist, one of the founders of NAMBLA and has edited several volumes of Allen Ginsberg's journals.]

                                                                                                              * * *

Before Allen Ginsberg spoke at the conference, a handful of us went out to have lunch with him. I was most impressed by Ginsberg's humility and inquisitiveness. As we all talked, I got the sense that he'd voiced support for NAMBLA more from gut instinct than any detailed analysis of the group's positions. Ginsberg peppered us with questions, showing real interest and curiosity about this group of comrades who'd gone curiously out on a limb in defense of pederasty.

[The writer is a long time NAMBLA activist]

                                                                                                              * * *

I remember the advent of the Beat Poets and their unconventional ideas, but I must confess that I was, except for one thing, always quite conventional and to this day have never quite understood poetry. I first saw Allen Ginsberg when homosexuality was still considered a disease and did not realize at the time that the ponytailed man with him was his life partner.

The occasion was Ginsberg being invited by a kid's camp run by the New Jersey YMWHA (Young Men and Women Hebrew Association). He had been invited to speak to the older campers and the counselors. I remember that ponytail guy following behind him like a puppy dog. I do not remember what Ginsberg talked about. Perhaps he read some poetry and spoke of his philosophy. Notwithstanding the liberal sixties and the liberal philosophy of the camp, Ginsberg presented nothing controversial in the view of the straight laced guy I then was.

But in retrospect, that visit now tells me something special about Allen Ginsberg. At the time of the invite, he had long been a celebrated American Poet. His appearance at a children's camp had absolutely no publicity angle or motive for aggrandizement. There were no reporters, no cameras, no publicists. He had accepted the invitation for the pure pleasure of sharing his thoughts and poetry. Ginsberg's humility and decency were genuine. Perhaps, many years later, he saw in NAMBLA an organization that, as he did, did not fear opprobrium from an uncomprehending society.

Peter Herman

                                                                                                                * * *

On September 27, 2019 Eric Tazelaar published the following piece. His observations, independently made, shows us the consistency of the qualities everyone who met Allen Ginsberg saw in him.

 

If you would like to comment on this or anything else on our website, please contact us at info (at) nambla.org


Ways you can help our cause:

You can help by joining our efforts

You can also help by making a donation

       Home     


Copyright NAMBLA, 2021